The Night Porter (1974)

night porter poster 1974 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Strong cast

Cast isn't helped by a story that feels dirty instead of erotic

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Night Porter

Studio:   Lotar Film Productions

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   April 3, 1974 (France)/October 1, 1974 (USA)

MPAA Rating:   R

night porter nazi fetishism charlotte rampling dirk bogarde

I love my Nazi tormentor-lover…

Maximilian Aldorfer (Dirk Bogarde) is trying to disappear.  A former SS agent hiding in Vienna after the war, Max works as a night porter at an upscale hotel.  Still associated with allies during the war, Max finds himself undergoing a mock trial by his peers to determine what information and witnesses (if any) can be found on Max if he’s called up on war crimes.  When Max has an accidental reconnection with Lucia Atherton (Charlotte Rampling), he and Lucia begin reenacting the torturous, sensual relationship they had during the war…but Max’s allies worry Max is taking it too far and Max and Lucia must be silenced to stop Max from exposing them.

Directed by Liliana Cavani (who also cowrote the film), The Night Porter (Il portiere di notte) is an erotic thriller drama.  The film’s subject matter led to controversy and the movie was released to divisive reviews.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #59).

night porter nazi clown mask accordion fantasy

These Nazis are into some weird stuff…

The Night Porter was a film I picked up on a whim.  Criterion generally has solid releases and I always enjoy checking out some of the “quality” films to balance out the slew of dumb films that exist.  While The Night Porter has some artistic integrity, I don’t know if I can go along with its storyline.

The movie feels like it is banking on the idea of Stockholm syndrome, but it places no real blame on the syndrome.  Lucia is “held against her will” after going to the man who tortured and abused her (even though he continues to torture and abuse her).  It tries to build this intense eroticism with a lot of fetishized Nazi symbolism, but it doesn’t feel erotic whatsoever.  It just feels kind of sick since the two essentially allow themselves to wither away.

The acting is rather solid.  Dirk Bogarde plays his role as someone who is both ashamed and excited by the return of his victim.  He is fidgety and nervous, but easily slips back into his domination role over Rampling’s Lucia.  Charlotte Rampling on the other hand leaves her comfortable like and seemingly loving husband for an abusive man (who may have kept her from dying at one point)…while it is an interesting psychological question, it doesn’t make you like (or even pity) her character much.  There is also the addition of a strange homoerotic relationship between dancer Amedeo Amodio, Max, and the SS officers which further muddies the plot of the film.

night porter nazi uniform dance charlotte rampling

I dance topless and all I get is a dead Nazi head?

Visually, the movie does look strong.  I like how it is shot and the style.  There are some truly bizarre fantasy-flashback sequences with Charlotte Rampling dancing topless surrounded by Nazis in clown masks among other things…while they are interesting, they seem to push this Nazi-fetishism that makes  the film uncomfortable.  The strength of some of the visuals is part of why I wish the movie’s plot and story had been better finessed.  It comes off as a good-looking mess.

The Night Porter doesn’t feel erotic but instead it feels kind of skeevy and sleezy…but not in a fun grindhouse way that pushes the envelope.  It feels like the movie believes in itself more than it is, but it really does feel like it boils down to a bad erotic thriller that thinks it is more of an art picture.  The acting and visuals are very good, but that cannot make up for the plot and story.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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